You just got laid off from your job (Ouch!), and getting ready to begin a new job search. Are you ready? What should you do first, and what tools will you need?
Most people jump in, sending out resumes or contacting people unprepared. Usually they are ineffective, and sometime set themselves up to do real damage. Get yourself organized and make a plan before you begin and your efforts will be much more fruitful.
Here are 13 tools and tips to consider if you’re just starting out, or already well into your process. You’ll need each of these:
- Calendar – You’ll obviously need to keep track of scheduled interviews and meetings. But just as important, you need to schedule your time each day and each week to make phone calls, to do company research, to tweak your resume for each job, to re-connect with people you spoke to days or weeks ago. Without actively blocking off specific times to do the things that aren’t ‘mandatory’, very little of those activities get done. Use Outlook, or some other electronic calendar, or use a desk calendar, or ‘Franklin’ type planner.
- Task Lists – In addition to your calendar, be sure to keep a great task list going to make sure to remind yourself of all the things you need to get to. Thank you notes; create list of people to call; follow-up call with ‘John Smith at ABC Co’; etc. It’s important to keep your running list of things to do, or they won’t get done! Outlook has an excellent Tasks function, or you may have another, or a legal pad can be just as functional, but if you’re not writing it down, things WILL get forgotten.
- Accomplishments List – Just as important as keeping track of what you need to do, is keeping track of what you’ve done! Maintaining a positive attitude while job hunting can be tough. It’s easy to get to the end of a day or a week and be discouraged that you still don’t have a new job. It’s also easy to forget what you’ve done, and feel as if you’ve hardly done anything at all. If, however, you can look at your “Accomplishments” list and see that you did have 20 conversations with new contacts this week, and had 3 informational interviews, and found 15 possible new leads, and discovered 12 new companies to pursue… you can feel satisfied that you’re doing the things necessary and it just becomes a matter of time until the offer happens.
- Your ‘Treasure Chest’ – It’s critical to take the time to think of and write down EVERYONE you know! Most people never realize how many people they know until they actually think it through and write them all down. Most of us have far more potentially helpful contacts than we realize. Imagine something like the diagram at the right to ‘map out’ all your contacts. The blue boxes can be memory joggers like ‘All the people at my previous job’; ‘Softball team’; ‘Friends at church’; ‘Professional Associations’; ‘Service acquaintances’ (barber, accountant, hair stylist, etc); ‘Health Club acquaintances’; and so on. Then fill in all the names you can think of. Don’t exclude ANYONE (I know someone who got their job lead from an 85 year old grandmother at church), you never know where your best leads will come from! In order to network effectively, you have to have a comprehensive list of people to contact to start with. Your objective with each one of those contacts is not just “do you know of a job”, but “who else do you know that would be worthwhile for me to talk to?” and “If you were in my situation, who would you contact?”
- Tracking Tools – Eight weeks into your job search, someone you meet says “Hey, you ought to talk to Bob Johnson, he’s in your field, and he’s probably one of the best networked guys I know!” Outstanding! Those are the people you want to talk to! You get his number you call him up, give him a 30 second initial introduction and ask if he can meet with you over a cup of coffee. He replies, “Umm, you must not remember, but we spoke a month ago already.” DOH!!! After having talked to dozens of people in the last couple of months, you just plain forgot you had already connected with him. A follow up call may have been very appropriate, but not treating it like an initial introduction. If you don’t have some mechanism to keep track of who you’ve talked to, when, and something about the conversation, this scenario is bound to happen. You must have some way of keeping track of your conversations, where you’ve sent your resume, what follow up calls you’ve made, what recruiters you’re working with, etc. There are some excellent online tools available to do this, like JibberJobber. Regardless of what you use, online, a spreadsheet or paper, make sure you have a system that works for you.
- Your Resume – Many people simply take the resume they used the last time they looked for a job and add additional information for their most recent position. Regardless of how good your last resume was, I guarantee it’s not the best for you now. You’ve since gained more experience, new accomplishments, and maybe different objectives. Furthermore, the market may look at resumes differently in your field now than it did last time. Create a ‘new and improved’ resume now. It needs to have relevant accomplishments, skills, and keywords. Furthermore, create multiple versions for different situations you may pursue, and each one needs to be tweaked for EVERY position you apply to so that it’s most effective for that particular role. Take the time to get it right, also keeping in mind that your resume is a constant work in progress. There is never a “final” version.
- LinkedIn – Is your LinkedIn profile up to snuff? LinkedIn is probably THE most powerful tool online to find contacts and to be found. In order for anyone to find you though, your profile need to have all the appropriate keywords that they are likely to use to find someone like you. Once they find you, they need to be impressed enough to actually want to contact you. Does your profile have a professional picture? Is there an effective summary that makes it clear what you do and what sets you apart? Is your contact information accessible for anyone to be able to reach you easily? Is your profile compelling?
- Study up! – Most people are not professional job seekers! There are skills, and strategies, and techniques that can help you tremendously if you know what they are. This site, and a multitude of others offer great tips and information. There are excellent books as well (check some of my favorites from Amazon in the right margin). Some of my favorite career sites are listed here also.
- Gather Your Resources – Find out what resources are available to you. Check your area for job networking groups, many churches offer excellent opportunities. Explore your state job service offerings, many states have excellent materials, resources, free seminars, and exclusive job listings. Find others that are also looking for jobs and create your own accountability group. Get together once a week to report what each of you has accomplished in your search the previous week and bring leads for each other (it’s important to set ground rules in advance that no one can complain, everyone should leave meetings encouraged, not discouraged). Seek out relevant professional associations or trade associations where you might be able to find leads and ideas.
- Business Cards – You meet someone, talk to them about your job search, and five minutes after you leave they realize they may have a lead for you. How will they reach you? Have business cards printed with your contact information and a short description. Make sure you give one to EVERYONE you meet.
- Your ‘Elevator Speech’ – When you meet someone new, and you only have a short time with them, how do you tell them what you do and what you’re looking for in a way they understand and is compelling. Are you prepared? Are you practiced? You must have it… read “What The Heck Is An Elevator Speech?” for more help.
- Phone – Most people never think about their phone. They put the number on their resume, and hand it out on their cards, and never think about what happens when someone actually calls. Do you have a house full of children that answer the phone with “Who’s this?!?” Or who may answer the phone well, but don’t give you the message, or erase it from the answering machine? Is your answering machine outgoing message one you’d be proud of with a potential employer? If you give your cell phone number, do you answer it while you’re in line at the grocery store? Be sure you’re prepared for THE call, and maybe get another phone line if necessary.
- Scripts – When you call networking contacts, or a job lead… do you know exactly what you’re going to say? Or do you ‘wing it’. Professional sales people use scripts! Even great experienced salespeople. Job hunting is SALES. If you write out scripts, practice them, and use them in your phone calls, for your meetings, and for your interview questions, you will be FAR better and more effective than talking off the top of your head. Take the time to think through, write, and practice scripts. The payoff will be enormous!
There are other things that can help you be better prepared as well. However, if you consider these before firing off scores of resumes, your job search will be MUCH more effective!
Thank you for visiting The Wise Job Search. I truly appreciate your interest. If you like the material here and would like to help keep it viable, please peruse and visit book recommendations, and other resources posted throughout the site. Best wishes on your continued search, and feedback is always welcome!